The City, the Self and the Essayistic: Essayistic Configuration of Urban Experience in Eileen Chang's and Virginia Woolf's Writing

DSpace Repository


Dokumentart: PhDThesis
Date: 2024-05-06
Language: English
Faculty: 5 Philosophische Fakultät
Department: Allgemeine u. vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft
Advisor: Reinfandt, Christoph (Prof. Dr.)
Day of Oral Examination: 2023-12-19
DDC Classifikation: 800 - Literature and rhetoric
820 - English and Old English literatures
Other Keywords:
The City
the Self
Urban Experience
the Essayistic
Eileen Chang
Virginia Woolf
Show full item record


This dissertation delves into the exploration of the literary representation of reality, the city, and the self in the works of Eileen Chang and Virginia Woolf. By delving into various forms of writing such as essays, short stories, novellas, and novels, I aim to explore Eileen Chang’s and Virginia Woolf’s innovative ways of imagining the city and conceptualizing the self. At the core of my investigation lies an understanding of how literary modernism challenges traditional notions of reality and selfhood. I view literary modernism as a transformative movement that critically interrogates established ideas of reality and self; it offers a new and insightful outlook that acknowledges the profound impact and inherent intricacies brought forth by the modern city on our comprehension of reality and selfhood. Within this framework, I consider the essayistic mode of expression to be an integral part of the modernist paradigm. The essayistic is characterized by a critical examination of the comprehensibility of reality, the narratability of the modern experience, as well as the inherent intricacy and open-endedness of that experience. In this study, I consider the essayistic form as ontologically urban, as uniquely expressive of modern urban experience. The modern city, with its complexity and heterogeneity, becomes increasingly resistant to narrativization within the constraints of linear, teleological storytelling, and attains its fullest expression in the essayistic form. Recognizing the limitations of conventional narrative forms, Eileen Chang and Virginia Woolf embrace the essayistic mode of expression, which allows nuanced and multilayered portraits of the city and the self. In Eileen Chang’s and Virginia Woolf’s writing, the city transcends its mere physicality and becomes a state of the mind, a projection of the self, and a manifestation of cultural and historical forces; the city is imagined as a site of complexity and ambiguity, where the lives of individual intersect and overlap in unexpected ways, and the seemingly mundane details of everyday life take on new meaning and significance. By bringing together these two renowned writers from distinct cultural backgrounds and focusing on their essayistic configuration of the city and the self, my dissertation opens up new perspectives and avenues for understanding the complex relationship between literature, urban experience, and self-expression.

This item appears in the following Collection(s)